Beyoncé is the wave of the future. Her Renaissance World Tour proved as much as it descended on Soldier Field Saturday night for the first of two sold-out weekend shows. The 21⁄2-hour extravaganza was pure escape into an otherworldly existence, perhaps the closest we mere mortals will get to going to the moon.
Full of the singer’s continually evolving progressive music, tons of sci-fi realism, android-human blurred lines, and an abundance of advanced technology that sets the bar for every other stadium tour to come, the road trek is also a rebirth of the megastar herself, seven long years after her last solo tour in 2016.
Now in her 40s and with more than 100 million records sold and a record-setting 32 Grammys, Beyonce is edging ever-closer to the throne left vacant by Queen Tina Turner, to whom she paid loving tribute with a cover of “River Deep, Mountain High,” asking the crowd, “Was she your hero, too?”
And her star power only gets brighter as her music continues to evolve, from earlier themes of love and sexuality to a platform of self-empowerment, race and the Black experience, feminism and — with her latest album — a queer celebration. The disco-fueled “Renaissance,” her record-breaking seventh No. 1 album, released almost a year ago to the day, is dedicated to her inspirational gay Uncle Johnny, to whom she paid homage several times during the night, most notably on the blistering “Heated.”
After an hourlong rain delay that pushed the start of the extravaganza to 9 p.m. and threatened the disintegration of the amazing costumes, makeup and hair that scores of devoted fans put so much work into, Beyoncé finally appeared, ascending on a platform from beneath the stage and eliciting ear-piercing screams with her first few words, “Chicago, I love you.” (The sentiment echoed the reaction to an announcement minutes prior that Queen Bey had given $100,000 to several small, Black-owned businesses in Chicago through her BeyGOOD foundation.)
Divided into seven stylized segments, the show ran through every track on the new album, complete with dazzling high-fashion costumes, and set changes that truly took a village of crew members to rotate.
The first section, “Opening Act” (yes, she was her own opener), was Beyoncé at her most ethereal, dressed in a feather-decorated ballgown and sitting atop a silver piano as she belted out R&B numbers from early in her career, including the Destiny’s Child track “Dangerously in Love” and “Flaws and All” (from the 2006 album “B’Day”).
“Opening Act” was also one of the few parts where Beyonce talked directly to the crowd, noticing the effort they put in to their homages to the Queen’s style. “How do you all look so good? You look like you planned your outfits months ago. I bet you got up at 8 to get ready,” she said to the legions dressed up in rhinestone cowboy hats, glitter-bombed dresses and unitards matching the ones the singer has debuted on the tour.
As much as her show was an incredible display of theatrics, Beyoncé never let her powerful voice waver, showing she’s still got one of the best set of pipes in the business.
As the night progressed, so did the energy and unbelievable choreography, as well as the thematic exploration, most of it centering on sci-fi, Afrofuturism and metamorphosis — a dose of “Metropolis” meets “Ex Machina.”
In the beginning of the “Renaissance” segment, she broke out of a metallic costume shell to deliver “I’m That Girl.” For “Black Parade” (part of the “Opulence” section), she rode a chrome military tank onto the stage catwalk, finishing the song with her eyes closed, fist raised in the air in a gesture of Black pride as many in the crowd did the same. (This is generally the section where Beyoncé’s star child Blue Ivy Carter appears, though she was noticeably absent on this night.)
During the “Motherboard” segment, Beyoncé paid tribute to Chicago house music (and later the choreography did likewise).
In “Church Girl” (during the “Anointed” segment), Beyoncé and her backup vocalists wore monochrome dresses that literally changed colors, with robot arms spray-painting them to look like stained glass.
It was just one of the ways advanced tech became a full-on supporting character in the show, alongside massive video walls, drone cameras and fisheye lenses that made the whole night seem like it was a Super Bowl halftime show on the Chicago Bears’ home turf. Her gravity-defying dancers and incredibly talented backup singers and house band (guitar, drums, keys, bass and full horn section) got their due in dedicated solos during set-change interludes as a giant disco ball hung overhead, giving off Studio 54 vibes.
As the show wrapped up with Beyoncé hooked up to high wires and effortlessly gliding over the audience, she had one last benevolent message to impart: “I hope you felt inspired, seen and loved and I hope you take that love everywhere you go.”
Beyonce returns to Soldier Field for a second show on Sunday night. Tickets: ticketmaster.com.
- Dangerously In Love (Destiny’s Child)
- Flaws And All
- I’m Going Down (Rose Royce)
- I Care
- River Deep, Mountain High (Ellie Greenwich)
- I’m That Girl
- Alien Superstar
- Lift Off (Jay-Z & Kanye West)
- Cuff It
- Break My Soul
- Run The World (Girls)
- My Power
- Black Parade
- Savage (Remix) (Megan Thee Stallion)
- Church Girl
- Get Me Bodied
- Before I Let Go (Maze ft. Frankie Beverly)
- Rather Die Young
- Love On Top
- Crazy In Love
Anointed Pt. 2
- Plastic Off The Sofa
- Virgo’s Groove
- Naughty Girl
- America Has A Problem
- Summer Renaissance